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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Back to Unschooling

We are still unschooling. There are so many families ending their summer and starting the new school year. Back-to-School.  This sentiment hasn't resonated for us for the past few years. We don't identify with the social convention of the school year. We don't adhere to school hours. We don't subscribe to school requirements. We don't limit ourselves by school restrictions. We do not emulate school. School was prison. Now we are free. Freedom and creativity go so well together and we are thriving.  We don't have an artificial start or end date for the day, month or year. We are curious, we are productive and we are creative 24/7/365. We are constantly learning and growing according to our own unique interests. By embracing unschooling, compartmentalizing our learning time has become irrelevant.


We reject most mainstream sentiment that places value on external measures which is rampant in the school system. In traditional educational environments there is so much emphasis on grades on testing as if that were a relevant way to observe whether learning has occurred and knowledge has been acquired. The only thing that testing proves is one's ability to prepare for a test and how skilled that person is at taking that test. Preparing for testing comes at the expense of all other areas of a child's life. Critical thinking, problem solving and immersive learning have no relevance when it comes to testing. For many children testing provides unnecessary stress and anxiety where the final outcome impacts the child's self-worth. What a shame that so many children have to waste their time enduring the immoderate burden of high stakes testing throughout so much of their young lives. Tests are irrelvant. Thinking, learning, creating and playing are important.  The mainstream world may still rely on prescribed measures to demonstrate knowledge but for us, it has no relevance anymore.

I have come to devalue formal education.

While still unschooling, our life looks a little different than a year ago. New passions emerge and we run with it. Doors have been opening up for my oldest son that would not have surfaced but for our alternative educational approach. Anything and everything is possible. His age is becoming less of a barrier as his creative intellect proves his value in the professional world. I, too, have grown tremendously since we started our unschooling journey and I continue to evolve into a more forward thinking, self-actualized person. There is ample time for reading, self-reflection and writing which I never carved out for myself before. It is liberating to be able to satiate my own unique intellectual and creative needs on a daily basis while my children do the same. 

We started this journey based on my oldest son's educational needs; however, radical unschooling serves us all well. I am formally educated with degrees and certificates and yet, I am far more well versed in the areas that I have engaged in learning independently than I am in any of the areas in which I am credentialed.  Passion-led, self-directed learning is highly personal, meaningful and satisfying and, in my case, it has opened me up to new career opportunities. Our lifestyle allows for healthy psychological development, emotional security, creative expression and intellectual exploration. Stress and anxiety is minimal and true connection between every family member is nurtured.  

Our days don't follow any pattern. There is no forced structure nor coercive learning. Rote memorization has no place in our lives and external metrics are treated with disdain. What my children engage in is entirely up to them and knowing how to think, learn and create is pervasive. There is no limit to our education and we are all enjoying the self-discovery ride. We are not back to anything.  We are living, loving and learning every minute of the day.


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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Unleashing Genius: Self-Directed Learning

Genius is a term thrown around loosely and wrongly applied quite often to gifted children.  Not all gifted children are geniuses despite a certain number attained on a standardized IQ test. Gifted children have a higher innate ability to understand complex ideas and learn more rapidly than most but being gifted does not ensure success academically, socially or vocationally and it does not always equate with genius. Many gifted children and adults struggle throughout life because of their intense way of experiencing the world without ever finding their true passion.  This is a sad reality for many gifted individuals as they never truly tap into their potential. Parents and educators may have a skewed sense of what it means to be gifted and what it means to be a genius.  A genius will rarely be the child who performs well in school and does what he is told. In my experience, genius is apathetic to conformity which is pervasive in a school setting. If you truly have a divergent thinker with extremely advanced intellectual prowess then that child may unleash his extraordinary abilities if provided the right environment in which to flourish. Through finding passions and following them with extreme self determination, a child may demonstrate prodigious nature. The intense focus, determination and ability to devour new information, synthesize it and produce something novel is part of the personality of a genius. The relentless need to create new ideas, implement them, trash them and continue producing is another trait inherent to the genius child. Geniuses are creative, relentless and prolific. They tend to excel acutely in their specialty areas and in the rest of life they may seem awkward and uncomfortable in common social situations. It makes sense. Nothing about them is common and their minds are always churning. The mundane aspects of daily life are not always survived well as idle moments can be intolerable.  When taken away from their passion, irritability and disquietude surface.

Genius is somewhat elusive and yet it is palpable. The energy emanating from a genius child is undeniably brilliant. Children with extremely high intellectual abilities are often voracious learners with insatiable minds. These children should not be in traditional school or their innate love of learning will get squashed and their divergent thinking and peculiar proclivities could get pathologized or, worse yet, medicated.  I know from experience.  Self directed learning for this specific type of child is necessary for some, if not most, of their young life. These exceptional children may benefit from having mentors in their area of specialty as well as unrestricted access to advanced materials from which to learn. The creative mind rejects forced structure and rote, mechanical learning.  Without freedom to let their minds wander, their true personalities never develop optimally.  




Historically, a certain number on an IQ test equated to the label of genius but presently many believe that the term genius is reserved for those uniquely creative intellectuals who also produce something of value to society as measured by that societies' standards. Meaningful contribution is mandatory. Geniuses espouse drive and passion that is unwavering. Dedication and relentless determination coupled with high intellect and creative energy are what fuel the desire to innovate and invent. Geniuses tend to be prolific in their chosen field(s) of interest but may not appear well rounded as they prefer to focus their time and energy in specialty areas.  Many of the great minds that we consider geniuses showed fierce dedication to their own self study and were demonstrably passionate which, at times, trumped their need to interact socially with the world.  

Creativity, abstract thinking, imagination, passion and unyielding perfectionistic drive are integral parts that make up the genius personae. If boxed in, a genius child may need to rebel to satiate their need for novel thought. These children gain nothing be being forced to follow someone else's direction whether in school, at home or otherwise. Providing such a child with freedom and the tools necessary to engage in self-education and open ended productivity is indispensable for emotional and intellectual development. Freedom must reign when your mind needs to linger in the abstract. Traditional notions of parenting and education do not apply and one must adapt to support the intense need of child whose brain is on fire. I am at my most helpful when I am simply there to listen to my son's theories and brainstorm with him. On occasion, he lets me in to fully experience the layers of his creative intellect. When he does, it is magical and otherworldly.  

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Lasting Weirdness

"I am an acquired taste.  I have pretty intense energy," I forewarn new friends.  Or, maybe they tell me something similar. Words aren't needed. If you are around me for any length of time my personality comes through pretty aggressively. It is a take it or leave it situation. I have always waxed and waned in the extremes. You love me or hate me but you are not sure which. I am friendly and affable but I don't have the patience for the superficial. I don't feign interest well and my enthusiasm is over the top. Extremes. Always. This makes for a great friend if you, too, are intense which most of my good friends are.  I am drawn to those with strong energy and complexity and thrive on impassioned conversation. I love argument. This, I have learned, is not how most people enjoy social interactions.  I enjoy having shared views and often prefer like-minded people but I really enjoy oppositional opinions. I welcome conflict.  Heated discussions are exciting for me and definitely preferred much of the time.  My husband has said that having a conversation with me is like having ice-cold water thrown in your face. I am not subtle.

I was the skinny little kid with dark curly hair and big lips when skinny wasn't in and blonde hair and thin lips were en vogue.  I was odd looking with a quirky personality and I was a magnet for those that stood out in some way. I loved the underdog, the outlier, the new kid with the accent, the culturally diverse kid, the overweight girl, the handicapped...anyone who was other than totally normal was who I gravitated toward. I continue to prefer differences over homogeneity which I find sterile. I enjoy those that others cast aside for their unique qualities.  

My friends at this point are quality over quantity outside of the social media world.  My good friends I talk to regularly and they embrace my aggressive conversational nature and oftentimes they seek out my guidance because they know that I will offer loving truth. I don't really sugar coat the truth but my candid nature and motivational type honesty helps them understand themselves better and they appreciate my opinion even if it makes them uncomfortable. And, they too, are my sounding board in times of need. I am a complex girl with a multifaceted past and the product of a dysfunctional family where I had to raise myself and learn coping skills at an early age.  Those that love me embrace all of it.  I can be exactly who I am without fear or judgment.  Living freely and authentically allows for meaningful relationships with empathic people who cherish spirited and insightful connection.

My husband is quite the introvert with little need for social interaction outside of our immediate family.  He avoids small talk and seeks solitude.  At work he has to be conversational and friendly but it takes a tremendous toll on him to have to be "on" socially.  When we are all together he is pretty happy for me to do most of the talking on his behalf. Limited social interactions suit him just fine.

Raising outliers and living a subversive life affects friendships for my children as well as myself. It is mostly by choice that we stay rather insular as a family but circumstances affect relationships as well. It is very challenging to take my son away from his work when he is in flow and working under self-imposed deadlines.  It is not entirely dissimilar for my youngest and myself.  We spend our time quite selectively with a small group of families where everyone can be strong and weird and creative and sensitive and we do not have to modify our personalities in the hope that people may think we are "normal." True friendships are more important than mass popularity. We aren't trying to fit in and the more the merrier doesn't always apply.  

For my ten year old, Liam, friendships work best if the other children are creative and imaginative.  We have given up on finding intellectual age peers because they simply do not exist for him.  Fortunately, there is one family in particular where all four boys get along beautifully as do the parents and I. Aside from them we spend most of our time with my close friends, gifted unschooling families and extended family.  It is enough social interaction for the time being. What we have found repeatedly is that for L, accomplished mid forty something computer scientists are his intellectual peers and it is with them that he can satiate his mind through high level conversation.

Sutton, who just turned six, is a charismatic child who gets along well with many and he has a unique set of character traits that are gender inclusive and all encompassing. He and I both tend to befriend new people with addiction like fervor. If we meet and there is a strong connection then our friendship may go from 0 to 60 immediately. Some friends are in it for the marathon but some are just along for a sprint.  He has had intense friendships that have been short lived but while they were besties it was an all day, every day proposition.  He is learning at a young age the dynamics of intense friendships. I am fairly certain that superficial friends won't be his thing either as we all seem to prefer a deep and honest connection.

Prior to having children I was somewhat of a social butterfly but my priorities have shifted and now my friendships are relegated to phone and social media communication for the most part.   Geography and time constraints are a factor and our divergent, schedule free lifestyle plays a part as well. We are enjoying our quiet, focused life and when social opportunities arise we participate with enthusiasm, intensity and just enough weirdness to keep it interesting.



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Monday, July 21, 2014

My Complex Children

My bizarre and brilliant children are my muse. No question. I may be theirs as well. We have unbelievably stimulating and detailed conversations about anything and everything which leads to my writing material.  I have learned so much about myself through my children and there is not a day that goes by where I don't have rich moments to draw from as inspiration. 

have known for awhile how my oldest son's brain and personality work.  He has a multitude of learning styles that are all tapped into at once for optimal performance. He's a big picture, strategic thinker who lingers in the details.  He requires graphic rich aesthetics, audio visual delivery and an interest in the subject matter and he is a carnivorous sponge with complete understanding after one take. That is just how his brain works. It is effortless learning when delivered effectively.  

What I have recently realized is a new trait that is pervasive across multiple disciplines. He is a problem solving enthusiast. He seeks to spot problems and exploit them in a way that fosters new creative channels of expression.  I didn't realize it was a part of his innate makeup until today. He is the consummate white hat hacker who hacks for the betterment of his own creative freedom. Hacking is all about problem solving, critical thinking and personalization; I just never realized that it is an inherent part of of his temperament versus simply a fun pastime. It is clearly noticeable in the type of discrete math that he delves into and I realize now that it extends to his love of film editing. Part of what he likes about editing is being limited to working with certain actual footage and then having to figure out how to create something interesting from the mediocre.  One more piece of the puzzle that makes him a unique child to parent.

Life, for him, is worth dissecting and analyzing. He craves depthful conversation, hoards information and detects problems and discrepancies as a way of life. It is just who he is. I am not that different, I suppose. We both feel a need to deconstruct ideas and brainstorm possibilities. Every.Single.Moment. We channel complexity.  Our conversations do not sound like a typical mother and child; however, nothing about either of us is typical.  I suppose most parents hone their parenting style based on who their child actually is in lieu of their idea of what parenting should look like. That is certainly the case here in the land of intellectual chaos.  If I tried to parent my children based on some formula found in bestselling one-size-fits-all parenting books, we would have a very different family dynamic and I would have no clue who my children really are.  I try my best not to stifle any aspect of my children's personality but I do offer guidance based on my knowledge of the world that one cannot extrapolate through reading books and engaging in media.  

My youngest child is vastly different. His personality is about deconstruction but not of ideas as much as it is about dismantling the physical world and all objects in his view. He creates and enjoys visual chaos. Disarray is comforting to him.  "When everything is chaotic, then you know you've had fun." His words, not mine.  Though, I kind of get it. He just really likes to take things apart, build something new and then destroy it. Deconstruction, construction and destruction all wrapped up in a cute little charismatic package with the self confidence of a mob boss and the vocabulary and emotional intelligence of an adult.  His emotional depth is naturally astute and layered.  I am not quite sure where it comes from but he is more connected than anyone I have ever met. His ubiquitous understanding of love and heartbreak coupled with just enough darkness would make for an excellent poet or tortured artist.  He wields his power through intense stares and dramatic exhibitionism while in costume and in character. 

Deeply emotional children can be scary at times especially when, in my child's case, he is also quite fascinated with violence.   It has been this way since he was a toddler and wouldn't leave the house without carrying a concealed weapon, generally in the form of a plastic toy spatula.  He is a lover and a fighter.  He cares profoundly about the feelings of others and has an impassioned view of the world.  And, like his brother, he seems to acquire knowledge through osmosis.  

There is no manual for these types of children:  How to Parent Your Omnibus Prodigy and How to Support Your Weapon Wielding, Emotionally Intense and Charismatic Gifted Child simply do not exist.  I am parenting the children I have, not the ones I had envisioned years ago.  Our life doesn't look like anyone elses and nothing is routine. 

Parenting gifted children is a unique challenge which is all consuming and incredibly exhilarating.  Every day is an adventure replete with life lessons which ignite our day. The main guidance that I offer my children is with character development. "Know who you are."  I say this a lot as we examine situations in life and glean insight into how to develop into a psychologically healthy and happy person.  We don't work on traditional academics but we certainly dissect human behavior and our role in the social world.  

Traditional approaches to parenting and education are often ineffective when you are raising a profoundly gifted child or prodigy.  Radical unschooling works beautifully for my self-directed children as freedom reigns and rules do not apply.  Structure and forced learning are suffocating to their autonomous creative minds.  Trying to keep gifted children in the proverbial box will do more harm than good and may create behavioral issues that mimic pathologies. Gifted children need to be embraced and accepted, quirks and all.  We are the noticeably odd family wherever we go and our strong personalities have been known to make people's head spin.  We don't really go with the flow and my children don't blend in. Their personalities are overt and they exude their brilliance the way most people breathe.  I have one child who lives in his head and one who is guided by his heart. They are both wholly original and dexterously challenge all societal expectations.  My complex children are rarely easy to parent; however, they sure make life more interesting.  














Monday, July 7, 2014

My Children Dictate Our Way Of Life

"It is not what you learn, but how you learn," my son announced the other day.  My kids are chock full of insight and they are the catalyst to our bizarro way of living. They influence my writing and view of the world and they have changed me forever as a person and definitely as a mother.  Their quirks reflect who I am and who I must have been as a child.  It is hard to remember my childhood but I certainly was not provided with the kind of love and support that I offer to my own children. My past has shaped me for better or worse and I am who I am but probably not who I was meant to be. 

So, what I am learning is that reading, writing and media are a central theme for me which parallels and complements my children's interests.  Our stay-at-home lifestyle allows me to satisfy my own creative and intellectual needs as much as it does for my offspring. Schedules may once have worked for all of us but now that seems stifling and a distant memory.  Though our life is far from perfect, it certainly suits us.  It is hard to remember what I envisioned when I thought of becoming a parent, but it certainly was not this. I had some unrealistic ideas of maintaining my super social lifestyle of parties, movie premieres and going out on the town with girlfriends. That type of lifestyle ended full stop upon the birth of my first child but my ideas at that point were still fairly traditional in nature.  My circumstances have helped shape my parenting style for the better.  Lack of space and round the clock nursing dictated that I co-slept with my baby which started me off on a more hippie mom type parenting style than many other moms I knew living on the westside of Los Angeles.

Fast forward several years after participating in the typical school and summer camp route and I have and continue to evolve into the most radical parent I know.  Our alternative lifestyle is certainly enjoyable and creatively free which allows for a lot of self reflection. Spending nearly every waking moment with my two gifted, loquacious kooks is never dull. I am pretty sure a quiet introvert would feel assaulted by the verbosity of my progeny; however, I embrace rapid fire communication and join in on the fun.  We, as a family, are a lot to take in which is hardest on my husband who is that quiet introvert. Our talkative nature causes him anxiety but we are who we are so he deals with it. It is a love/tolerate thing.

Parenting gifted children is certainly a learning experience that I could never have been prepared for until I realized I was in the midst of it and I had to figure it out. Fortunately, it didn't take too long for me to understand my children and their needs but I had to experience a plethora of missteps before the light bulb went on.  It is empowering once you appreciate and understand your child's true temperament and are able to nurture it. Radical unschooling allows my children the freedom to develop into exactly who they are meant to be on their own time frame without having to endure boredom, coercion, psychological or physical abuse. I may be sacrificing a big paycheck but I do so happily knowing that I am providing my children with exactly what they need.  Many of us are forced to integrate some form of alternative education because of our exceptional chidren's atypical needs. I cherish the time we spend together and love that we have developed a deeply connected relationship with unique opportunities that would never manifest if I went to an office and they were stuck in school.


Our days are unscheduled. That thought scares many parents but it is comforting for us. The kids sometimes take classes but generally our days are free and open to discover whatever comes our way.  We follow our passions which are constantly evolving and we enjoy our ability to do that which we please.  My parenting style is based more on offering suggestions and then backing off. Whether my kids heed my advice is up to them. Nothing is required. Nothing is forced.  I influence their choices to a small degree but I certainly do not make them do anything they don't want to do. This approach is very different than virtually all parenting books out there which suggest tips and tricks in order to have well behaved kids who follow all the rules. Oh, that's right. I am not striving for well behaved, obedient kids. They are respectful much of the time but they certainly are not perfect little robots that do as they are told.  They challenge me constantly much like how I used to challenge my parents.  I am pretty sure I infuriated them at times but they survived and I turned into an adult who speaks her mind and influences people. 


Most adults don't embrace children who are oppositional and opinionated.  Part of the make-up of gifted children is that they have so many ideas and theories and are generally sticklers for facts. Factual correctness oftentimes trumps polite social behavior. They have a need to be right and usually have an arsenal of factoids at their fingertips. The thing is...they usually are right which can be even more infuriating. I often provide reminders of how one may need to tame their personality based on the context of the situation. Or, rather, I model another way of disseminating the factually correct information in such a manner so as not to alienate or frustrate anyone within earshot.  

My oldest needs constant reminders when it comes to this and I try to explain how environment and one's age must factor in to the delivery of his abundance of knowledge about nearly everything.  He is a kid who knows the source material, origins story, history and evolution of so many things and he naturally launches into the back story of whatever the subject at hand is. I can dig it as I live it daily but his overly articulated content is too much for some people who prefer things quiet and simple.  This kid doesn't take anything at face value. He has a knack for taking something simple and elevating it to the overly complex and he has the same adeptness at breaking down complex ideas and making them simple and digestible all in a fairly long winded manner. He is a garrulous kid who was a self-proclaimed talker as a baby. The content changes but the dissertation style delivery remains constant.  

The little one, who is about to turn 6, needs a slightly different type of guidance. He, too, has a facility with the English language but he is overly confident with his use of curse words. They flow so effortlessly from his mouth and he is not apologetic about his abundant use of off-putting phrases.  His older brother has never uttered a curse word in his life, which he takes pride in, but the youngest sees no problem embracing drunk sailor type banter along with engaging in violent dramatic play. He breaks all molds when it comes parenting a young child. After having a goodie two shoes type of first child, I was not at all prepared for parenting this kid. He has no desire to propitiate for the sake of social harmony and his attraction toward weapons and violence scares me.  On the flip-side, he is the most cuddly, lovey, emotionally connected, syrup sweet boy that enjoys colorful, iconic characters and wears his heart on his sleeve.  He is highly creative, entirely selfless and eager to help anyone in need.  His uniqueness and charisma fascinate me and his zeal for life is contagious.

There are days when I cannot believe this is our life and then others where I am thrilled with how everything turned out. Since I am not a planner, I couldn't tell you what the future holds and yet I never worry about how my children will fare as adults. They have the tools to be successful and the ability to think creatively and critically which I believe are some of the most important skills for this generation.  For some outsiders whose kids endure public school, watching us radically unschool is like watching a train wreck. Parenting freethinkers may appear risky to some but for me it is imperative.  Gifted children do not fit any pre-conceived mold, and moreover, why would you want them to. Parenting outliers is not easy,
 but it is real, it is entertaining and it is our life.  


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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gifted in Translation

Upon the realization that my first child was gifted, I did some google searching and had a conversation or two with my mom about it and then went on my way living my life as if it was just a thing that would make life and school a little easier.   Life and school certainly do not become easier because your child is gifted.  There are some words and thoughts that come to mind when I think about raising gifted children but easy living isn't one of them.  Many parents, including myself, would describe the journey of raising gifted children as intense, confusing, overwhelming, depthful, mentally draining, awe inspiring, rapidly evolving and sometimes it makes my head spin in the most amazing way.  The reality is that these words are lighter than what we truly experience.

A decade ago, I didn't envision this life we are living; however, it suits our fierce individualities perfectly. I, too, was an odd bird growing up.  Or, at least that is what my friends told me. I didn't know what they meant at the time. And, I too, was a bit of a rebel who embraced being different. I distinctly remember sales pitching my mother about not needing to go to school anymore because I wasn't learning anything important.  I was 9. I guess it shouldn't come as such a shock to me that we have evolved into radical unschoolers. Freedom to push boundaries, reject forced ideas, delve into the unknown and immerse ourselves deeply in our own interests is our driving force.  Our life is fueled with intense intellectual and creative energy weaving comedy and confusion throughout.

We oddballs do not generally apologize for not fitting in. Actually, some people prefer us for that quality.  The free spirited, free thinker with a wealth of knowledge to back up the overly articulated rants. Tact is modeled (sometimes) and passion is infectious. We aren't trying to fix the quirks.  We are a very extreme and noticeable family wherever we go. It is just who we are. We don't blend in. Anywhere.  This part is hard on my husband who tries to live every day like he is invisible.  My oldest offspring is definitely a child who enjoys his quirky personae, my youngest exudes charisma, my husband is the strong silent type and I am the chaos whisperer.  Our authentic nature sometimes presents as rough around the edges.  My kids demonstrate their heightened sense of living in the world in oppositional l ways so I must remain well versed in each child's unique temperament in order not to offend society in general as well as to best facilitate their developmental trajectory.    

One must have an unusual amount of patience and understanding when living with gifted children. Their asynchronous development can catch you off guard and leave you asking yourself, "How is it that this kid can do discrete math in his head instinctively but cannot adequately take showers without encouragement and reminders?"  When their minds emulate that of a professor but their common sense and life skills barely match a young child, it serves to confuse the most empathetic parent.  Even my husband, who lives this bizarrro life every day, is, at times, baffled by the disparity in intellect versus childlike judgment, physical adroitness, emotional stability and impulsive nature.  He is constantly connecting one to another and then fails to make sense of it all despite my explanations.  Asynchrony is pervasive with no off switch; it is all consuming and mixed with overexcitabilities can be entirely overwhelming at times. This combination often leads to a misdiagnosis of pathologies in gifted children.  I prefer to look a gifted child through a positive lens that takes into account asynchronicity, overexcitabilities and environmental influences.

Connecting undesirale behavior to the environment and learning approach plays an indispensible role in understanding gifted children.  Sating a gifted child's intellectual and creative needs is an essential ingredient in how they behave in any given situation.  Parenting gifted children requires knowledge and oftentimes a switch in mindset in order to fully support and appreciate the extraordinary nature of the gifted child.  Raising an out-of-the-box thinker in an in-the-box system is counterintuitive and often damaging.  

It took years for us to evolve as a family into a freethinking way of life, specifically in terms of parenting and education.  Because of just how off beat and strong willed my children are, radical unschooling really is our only possibility.  These children know who they are and what they want and need. I am here to help them along on the path they are carving out for themselves.  Their independent spirit fuels their motivation which is shaping their personalities.  The one similarity my two boys share is that their interests and passions come in waves and they are all consuming when at the forefront.  The obsessions change but they are always deeply explored and a meaningful part of their personal development. 


Gifted children and unschooling are often an ideal fit.  Most gifted children are fiercely independent and driven by their inquisitive nature. Self-directed learning is the most natural approach for a motivated, gifted child brimming with curiosity. Providing gifted children with the freedom to satiate their intellectual and creative needs in a stimulating environment with access to interesting materials and technology is paramount for a thriving autodidact  In my case, preventing freedom of self-discovery would foster behavioral issues and negative, hostile energy which is advantageous to no one.  When my children are driven and focused on an endeavor of their own choosing, the best course of action is to stay out of their way and let them engage fully in their work. External expectations of what a child should be interested and engaged in has no merit in an unschooling lifestyle.  The child is in control of his own pursuits regardless of adult and societal archetypes.

The unschooling journey is ever evolving and moderately eccentric.  Then, again, that is the point...to be entirely individualistic and authentic in terms of shaping one's identity, intellect and creative being.  Embrace your gifted child's quirks and temperament and let them soar with the freedom that they relish.  Try not to compare and measure your children with the external world of mediocrity and sameness. Gifted children are not meant to blend in and be like everyone else. Celebrate who they truly are, savor the experience and enjoy the ride.



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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

this is our normal

I am a firm believer that a child's life should be filled with play in whichever way that manifests.  Age, temperament and family lifestyle will heavily determine what play looks like over time and in different homes. We are not an outdoorsy, adventurous family with the exception of the kids' newfound interest in Nerf toy guns, so our play is mostly indoors.  I think my five year old would appreciate a lot more wilderness, camping and frolicking about outside but my sun aversive personality, desire for physical comfort and cleanliness plays a factor in what choices we make out in the world. Though we live near the beach, it takes a lot of accoutrements for me to tolerate it, much less enjoy it, so the beach is my husband's domain.  I would prefer to be indoors reading, writing or watching a movie.  Indoor play is just more my speed.

The importance of play, in whatever form, is paramount in our life. Unschooling allows for unlimited learning through play.  When you enjoy what you are doing it feels like play even if it doesn't look like it to the outside world.  My five year old's day is entirely play-based which includes how he approaches reading, maths, writing, creative expression and social development. In our world play and learning are inseparable.  My ten year old's day is entirely play based as well but his play includes an incredible amount of technology and reading.

I am not sure what is typical for most ten year olds but in this house it means non stop learning, creating and general information consumption and dissemination.  This child has had no use for toys or anything resembling childlike interests since the day he turned nine. That was the beginning of the end of his childhood as I had come to know it and the mark of something much more unique, intense and all consuming.  As soon as this kid's eyes are open to greet the day he goes straight to the heart of all learning: technology.  His computer and iDevices are always nearby and ready to be utilized for most of the day as his primary learning and producing tool.  He rarely needs a break from his work which is technology centric and wholly satisfying. The only part of his play filled learning day that is offscreen is when he is consuming his comic books and teaching me what he has been learning about or creating.  There isn't much else.  His work is his play and his play is his work.  On the occasions when we do venture out into the world, he is creating and editing the whole time.  If the statement is true that one should find what they love and the money will follow then this kid will make boatloads.  There is no frivolity to his day. There is just no time for that.  

I am pretty sure my five year old is a little more in line with other five year olds. He loves Legos, superheroes, fighting, violence, weapons, My Little Pony, Hello Kitty, building and cuddle time. Okay, maybe not entirely typical but he is a child who plays all day, every day and is creative and curious. Our unschooling day provides for unlimited freedom to satiate one's desires.  It just so happens that for my five year old it means acting out a lot of fighting scenes from superhero movies, reciting lines from The Goldbergs and then turning to My Little Pony comics and plush toys for lovey tenderness. He is a complex boy, to say the least, who is in tune with his masculine and feminine sides in a very powerful and all encompassing way. He is a kid who can connect with boys and girls of absolutely any age with ease and it has always been this way.  He is a dream to play with but parenting him is not for the faint of heart.  Unlike his older brother who has never uttered a curse word in his life, this kid walks with the confidence of a prison gang leader and talks like a drunken sailor.  There really isn't much we can do about it other than mostly ignore it and occasionally remind him that most five year olds do not talk like this and all adults will find it offensive.  This falls on deaf ears.  

While my little kooks are doing their thing I tend to read, write and research the next great everything. We are a family where everyone is autonomous and focused on pursuing their own needs in a collaborative and loving environment (most of the time). We are not your average family which works well for my kids and I; however, my husband longs for a "normal" life which he thought he was signing up for when he met a nice Jewish attorney.  Sorry, I am a lot more than meets the eye and our life will likely remain complex and turbulent.  I am pretty confident that I have always been an odd bird, or, at least that is what my law school friends would tell me, but my kids take quirky and weird to new, bizarre levels.  I embrace the helter-skelter life we lead and and enjoy that we all keep evolving into more creative beings.

Since we have embraced an alternative lifestyle, disturbing the existing order at every turn, it is no wonder our play looks different from the norm. Every moment in our radical unschooling life is mostly enjoyable and entirely interest led.  Interest led learning is synonymous with play, which is defined as an "activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, especially by children."  We live a life of play. All day, every day, we engage in activities purely for enjoyment.  It just so happens that we thoroughly enjoy hoarding information and devouring knowledge.



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